Biography

Smashing Pumpkins' music is distinguished from most other grunge rock in its incorporation of the high production values, ornate arrangements, and melodicism of such '70s bands as Boston and ELO.

Corgan, whose father is a guitarist, grew up in a Chicago suburb and moved to Florida at age 19 as leader of a goth band, the Marked. Returning home, he formed Smashing Pumpkins, at first simply a duo (Wretzky, Corgan, and a drum machine). A local-label single, "I Am One," led to the release of "Tristessa" on Sub Pop; in 1991, the band's debut album, with Butch Vig producing, became a college-radio favorite, eventually going gold in 1994. The major-label followup fared even better, debuting at #10 in 1993 and making the group alternative-rock stars.

Emphasizing both the virtuosic interplay of Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin and Corgan's confessional lyrics, the Pumpkins employed a Mellotron, strings, and multiple guitar parts on Siamese Dreams, and continued to edge closer to progressive rock than to punk or grunge. Pisces Iscariot (1994) is a compilation of earlier recordings. Corgan indulged his prog-rock jones full-on with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (#1, 1995), a double-disc set that spawned a handful of hit singles, including "1979" (#12, 1996). The Aeroplane Flies High (#42, 1996) was a 33-song box set compiling Mellon Collie's singles along with B sides and cover songs.

During a 1996 summer tour, Chamberlin and touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin both overdosed on heroin at the same time; Melvoin died and Chamberlin was arrested and subsequently fired. Filter's Matt Walker filled his seat for the remainder of the tour, but the band's quietly intimate next album, Adore (#2, 1998), was recorded using session percussionists and drum machines. A theater tour promoting the album raised more than $2.7 million for various charities, but when Adore stalled at platinum it was considered a commercial failure in the wake of the band's previous sales. Chamberlin was brought back on board in 1999, and MACHINA/the machines of god (#3, 2000) represented a return to hook-laden guitar rock. Wretzky quit shortly before the album's release, and was replaced for the ensuing tour by Melissa Auf der Maur of Hole. Sales of MACHINA proved no better than Adore's, and during a radio interview on May 23, 2000, Corgan announced that the band would break up at the end of the year.

As the Pumpkins finished their tour commitments through the end of 2000, Corgan revealed plans for one final album of unreleased material from the band. He also hinted at a solo career, an avenue James Iha had already tested via Let It Come Down (#64), his 1998 album of singer/songwriterÐstyle love songs. The Smashing Pumpkins officially broke up on December 2, 2000, following a four-hour-long show at Chicago's Cabaret Metro, where the band had debuted in October 1988. In early 2001 the band offered the album Machina/Friends and Enemies of Modern Music on its official Web site.

Billy Corgan announced his commitment to reviving the Smashing Pumpkins through a full-page ad he placed in the Chicago Tribune on June 25, 2005. He and Jimmy Chamberlain subsequently returned to the studio to record Zietgiest, released July 10, 2007.

from The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001)

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